The largest HBCU in the nation will take a gigantic leap in helping to create more clean energy jobs for Black people. North Carolina A&T State University was awarded $23.7 million from the Good Jobs Challenge grant, which is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s American Rescue Plan. It is the most significant single award ever received in the university’s history.
North Carolina A&T State University is one of 32 awardees selected from more than 500 applications. The program will be called STEPs4GROWTH and will provide workforce training for individuals looking to work in the clean energy sector.
“Through this important project, North Carolina A&T will play a leading role in preparing well-trained workers to fill the many skilled jobs in America’s rapidly growing clean energy sector,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “The prescient work of A&T engineering faculty and principal investigators on this grant, Balakrishna Gokaraju and Greg Monty, has culminated in a novel program for delivering education credentials through stackable certificates.
North Carolina companies like Duke Energy, Strata Clean Energy, Blue Ridge Power, and others will participate in the new initiative. As a part of the program, 40 companies have committed to hiring 3,000 employees each over the next four years in 17 underserved communities.
“This transformative grant will invest in our state’s diverse workforce as we continue to create high-paying clean energy jobs and bolster NC A&T’s reputation as a national leader preparing students for the economy of the future,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.
Alejandra Castillo, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, spoke with NewsOne about the importance of the Good Jobs Challenge grant and the impact the Biden administration is trying to have on creating jobs for diverse communities.
“When we announced this grant, we actually received 509 proposals across the country,” Castillo said. “It was a really tough decision to select these 32 awardees…one of the critical elements was the strength of the coalition, the diversity of the coalition, and the employer commitment.”
She said the Good Jobs Challenge brought more stakeholders to the forefront in creating workforce development opportunities. Castillo also said the program created wraparound services, like childcare, for those who need support to get and sustain employment.
“We gave the communities the opportunities to tell us to design their own programs so that it could be responsive to the needs of each individual community,” Castillo explained.
North Carolina A&T State University is already known as the nation’s top producer of Black engineers. So the transition to direct some of the talented people in their community into the clean energy sector could be almost seamless.
In general, HBCUs are hotbeds swarming with talented Black minds that could thrive in a quickly growing and evolving industry such as clean energy. North Carolina A&T will serve as a great avenue to provide these opportunities to individuals who have historically been excluded from major growth industries.
“The cornerstone of everything that we’re doing at EDA is really anchored around equity,” Castillo said. “We wanted to make sure that in every grant that we announced, there was an equity piece to it because we understand that we have to make sure that all Americans are prospering under the American Rescue Plan.”
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